World flags hanging in the student center

World Topics, Up Close and Personal

St. Lawrence University’s Center for International and Intercultural Studies (CIIS) brings global issues to campus.


Sara Norberg ’19

“Sterling Slides to Two-Month Low as Brexit Pressure Builds on PM May” “Inequality Fuels Rage of ‘Yellow Vests’ in Equality-Obsessed France” “One Year After Revolt, Ortega Continues to Oppress Nicaraguans.”

These headlines from Reuters, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, respectively, highlight only a few of the pressing issues occurring around the world, thousands of miles from Canton, New York.

“Global engagement is an integral part of the learning that happens at St. Lawrence,” says Marina Llorente, Hanson Associate Dean of the Center of International and Intercultural Studies, when explaining why St. Lawrence University’s Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies (CIIS) has developed the World Topics Series, events that cover critical issues and current affairs around the globe throughout the semester. 

Each event in the ongoing series hosts a variety of guest speakers and panelists led by St. Lawrence professors and often including alumni and international experts as well as students or local community members that are close to a particular issue. Each panelist brings a unique perspective and can share knowledge and insights into the current state of affairs in the country being discussed.

 “There was a student from France, participating in the Yellow Vest Movement panel. She had a lot to share with us because she understood it as a French person,” says Llorente, who values the voices of international students from these specific countries on the panels. “There was also a student from Venezuela talking about the situation there. It was extremely interesting to hear his opinion.”

Beginning during the Fall 2018 semester, the World Topics Series has covered topics regarding the current political fray in Nicaragua, the potential repercussions of Brexit in the United Kingdom, the tension with Catalonia in Spain, the political dynamic in Turkey, the crisis in Venezuela, France’s labor protests, and U.S.-China relations. According to Llorente, these events have been well-attended not only by St. Lawrence students and faculty, but also by staff and Canton-area community members.

Llorente encourages students to attend to get an inside look at cultural differences in the context of historical, ecological, political, and economic processes affecting the globe.

 “It’s beautiful to see how engaged people are when they ask questions about these topics,” says Llorente about the series. She is quick to point out the breadth of the St. Lawrence commitment to international issues in every aspect of the student experience. “The University fosters student engagement with global issues by offering off-campus programs abroad, opportunities to do research with faculty abroad, and travel research and enrichment grants like the CIIS travel grant opportunities and the Tanner Fellowship.”

She believes that the institution’s long history of global engagement is the reason why it was one of the recipients of the 2018 Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization, which distinguishes excellence in integrating international education throughout all facets of the University.

“St. Lawrence is invested in creating meaningful off-campus programs, and one of the first to have a program in Kenya,” Llorente says. “The faculty and the curriculum that St. Lawrence offers are globally engaged, and the institution has been backing up all the interest coming from faculty. It is all meaningful knowledge and experiential learning in action.”